Kevin Novell just finished his second term as the Website/Online Resource & Disability Awareness Curriculum Development AmeriCorps*VISTA at the Community College of Rhode Island. Kevin’s work focused on making CCRI’s campuses more accessible to students and also on developing curriculum around disability and access.
Name: Kevin Novell
Host Site: Community College of Rhode Island
Where did you go to school? Brown University
What are your personal and professional interests? Mapping, hidden or disused spaces, local history
If you could have any super power, what would it be? Apophenia – the ability to make connections where they do not currently exist
Story of Service: When I first arrived for my interview at the site where I was placed, I had a difficult time finding my way to the room I needed to get to. The Knight Campus of CCRI is challenging to move within, a self-contained edifice of shaped concrete and filigreed windows. Navigating it isn’t particularly intuitive and I have gotten lost multiple times attempting to get to my office.
After a few months, I started to notice the diversity of physical and online maps, along with their uniform inaccessibility to folks with visual disabilities. Part of my work here has been to interface with the ADA Committee on campus around college access. I started taking photos of different campus maps. Maps that made it look like a floor existed when it really did not. Maps that color coded in ways that denied colorblind community members the ability to navigate. Maps with text so small someone with 20/20 vision would have to squint to read.
I presented these maps to the ADA Committee, using a tool that projected what a colorblind person would be able to distinguish in them. I researched tools that could be presumed to have continued relevance and utility if used for wayfaring and that could be, if not universally accessible, closer to it than what CCRI currently uses. After presenting the bad maps I collected, I proposed the College use Google Maps inside – allowing anyone to get pedestrian directions to a given room within the university. These directions can be presented visually, through audio or haptically.
The ADA Committee formally requested that the College start to use this tool to enable easy-to-use, accessible directions. In collaboration with CCRI’s IT department, I have uploaded all floorplans of all of CCRI’s campuses and have walked the floors with a special app that tracks GPS, cellphone towers, and wifi node position so that users in the future can receive foot-by-foot walking directions based on where they are in the buildings to the classroom or office they are headed to. This project was an important step in making CCRI more accessible to all students.